Why micro breaks are good for us

Abbi Crawford is a Physiotherapist and he explains why micro breaks are a great way to fit a teeny bit of fitness into your working day…

Why micro breaks are good for us

What is a micro break?

Micro breaks are small bite size rest periods away from the working day. Whether this is a chance for you to catch some fresh air, have a drink, a quick chat with a work colleague or as mundane as bathroom break.

It enables you to reflect on your work, gives a chance to have a refreshment, to regain some motivation to complete whatever the task is in hand or a chance to have a stretch and a change in body position.

I ask you all ‘What is your daily routine like?’ Do you get up, sit in your car on the way to work, sit at your desk at the office all day, sit in your car on the way home, sit in front of the computer or sofa when you get home and finally lie down and go to bed at the end of the day?

If this is you, it is recommended that you break up the routine of sitting all day in order to prevent the chance of poor musculoskeletal health, and it has been shown that these small micro breaks can actually boost productivity and increase individual wellbeing.

Henning et al. (1997) found that short (30 – 60 seconds) rest breaks from computer work at 15 minute intervals throughout the day improve musculoskeletal discomfort and worker productivity (Health and Safety Executive, 2011).

As humans we are made to move!

If you look at our anatomy we are designed to run, jump, climb, swim, forage or even fight like many animals on this planet. Contrary to what you may believe science tells us our closest relative in the animal kingdom are apes.

These animals spend large proportions of their day swinging in the trees testing their balance and agility. When they are not doing this they may be playing or stretching. Therefore, we should be doing the same or at least something very similar. It is not to say we as individuals are to blame but maybe it is how society and modern life has made us. However, that doesn’t mean we have to follow suit.

If you currently have or would like to prevent sedentary a lifestyle it is recommended you limit the amount of time sitting down, change your position regularly and vary your tasks throughout the day to prevent physical and or mental burn out.

Get involved for #wellbeing@work festival this May!

If you do sit at your desk all day change your position every 15 minutes, stand up and shake your legs, go outside for 1 minute or choose one of the stretches from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy desk exercises (CSP, 2017).

And by all means please try to spread the word to friends, family, strangers and of course patients. Because as the saying goes “Every contact counts.”

HSE recommends (Health and Saftey Excecutive, 1992)

  • Take breaks before fatigue onset
  • Breaks or changes in activity should be included in working day
  • Short frequent breaks i.e. 5-10 minutes every 50-60 minutes
  • Breaks should be taken away from the screen
  • Informal breaks appear to be more beneficial than formal breaks
  • Distribute the pace of work throughout the day

Find out from these references

CSP, 2017. Do you sit at a desk all day? (leaflets). [Online]
Available at: http://www.csp.org.uk/publications/do-you-sit-desk-all-day
[Accessed 26 April 2018].

Health and Safety Executive, 2011. Exercises to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort for people doing a range of static and repetitive work, London: Crown Copyright.

Health and Saftey Excecutive, 1992. Should VDU users be given breaks?. [Online]
Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/vdubreaks.htm
[Accessed 12 April 2018].

Ingraham, P., 2017. Microbreaking, Lots of little breaks may compensate for too much time spent in chairs. [Online]
Available at: https://www.painscience.com/articles/microbreaking.php
[Accessed 12 April 2018].

Lake Champlain Photography, 2013. What Is Evolution?. [Online]
Available at: http://har-mo-ny.com/wordpress/science/what-is-evolution/
[Accessed 12 April 2018].